What Are Nerve Decompression Disorders?

When a nerve becomes compressed, or pinched, it can cause pain, numbness and tingling. A compressed nerve can sometimes be treated with steroid injections or physical therapy, but oftentimes a compressed nerve will have to be treated with nerve decompression surgery.

A compressed nerve, or a pinched nerve, is caused when there is pressure on a nerve. It is caused when the nerve is pressed between ligaments, tendons and/or bones.

“One of the more common nerve procedures we do as hand surgeons are nerve decompression surgeries,” says Michael D. Riggenbach, M.D.

A pinched nerve can be caused by injury, arthritis, stress from repetitive work, sports or obesity.

What Are Common Symptoms of Compressed Nerves?

Symptoms of a compressed nerve include:

  • Numbness
  • Aching or burning pain
  • Tingling sensation
  • Muscle weakness
  • Feeling as if the area has “fallen asleep”

What Are the Treatment Options for a Compressed Nerve?

A treatment plan will vary depending on the location of the pinched nerve. The most common treatment for a compressed nerve is rest. Physical therapy may help strengthen and stretch the muscles in the affected area to relieve pressure on the nerve. Anti-inflammatory drug can also help a compressed nerve. When those treatments fail, surgery may be recommended.

“Most common is the carpal tunnel release,” Dr. Riggenbach says. “You’re releasing a ligament that’s causing pressure on the median nerve in the middle of the wrist. It’s causes numbness in the thumb, index finger, middle finger and part of your ring finger.”

When surgery is performed, the surgeon will typically create an incision and then cut the ligament to allow more room for the nerves when the ligament grows back. This relieves some of the pressure put on the nerves.

“Usually the surgery has a very quick turnaround, very little downtime,” Dr. Riggenbach says. “Depending on the stage of the compression of the nerve, it gets very good results.”